Jess Ainlay: What were the biggest challenges you had to overcome at the start of being nomadic?
Betsy Talbot: Those first months of travel were challenging for us, as we had to navigate a new way of being together 24/7, and become full partners in fulfilling our new “job” as travelers. We had to learn to make quick decisions in unfamiliar territory dozens of times a day. Nothing was ever the same, and it was a constant stream of taking in new information and deciding how to move forward with it. I wouldn’t change a thing because of all it has done for our life, relationship and work, but back then it just seemed like taking the full brunt of a fire hose.
Jess Ainlay: Over those four years, what countries made the most impact on you, your thinking, and your habits?
Betsy Talbot: The most impactful, I’d say, was our time in China. We spent 3 months in this country, and this is where I got an up-close look at what the world looks like when the environment is trashed, and there is no oversight for public health. Once the damage is done, there is no recovery. Kids can’t play outside, old people can’t walk, and you can’t even go for a jog or drink the water. Progress is not progress if it diminishes the basic needs of people.
The second was Russia. I was born in 1970, so the Cold War was in full swing during my childhood. Visiting Russia taught me that nothing is permanent. Borders and politics and alliances can and do change, and knowing this in advance means I don’t tie myself to a worldview that can’t be open to change.
The third was Scotland. This is where we accomplished our first multi-day hike, The West Highland Way.We came to hiking and fitness at the relatively late age of 40, and if it weren’t for the gorgeous outdoor spaces in Scotland and the ability to “wild camp”, I don’t know if we would have ever taken up the longer walks.
Long-distance walking has become a metaphor for my life, and every time I face a rickety bridge, reach the summit, climb over boulders, or wade a rushing stream, it reinforces the idea that I have to keep moving, step by step, to get where I want to go in life. Scotland was the start of that for me.
Jess Ainlay: How long do you think you have to either travel or live abroad to really feel that impact?
Betsy Talbot: I don’t actually think you have to go that far for travel to have an impact in your life. In fact, you can live as a traveler every single day no matter where you are by practicing curiosity, kindness, and acceptance. Eat different foods, go to cultural festivals, listen to world music, watch foreign movies.
Traveling or living abroad alone doesn’t make the difference. Being curious and adventurous makes an impact no matter where you are.
Jess Ainlay: When you mention talking to people about this, are you referring to your clients? Let’s explore this as it relates to your business. Are you teaching people to travel the world like you did?
Betsy Talbot: Our former company, An Uncluttered Life, grew out of our initial website called Married with Luggage. Because we were a bit older than the usual long-term traveler, but younger than the retirees, we attracted a lot of midlife adventurers and people looking for a change in the second part of their lives.
These people didn’t necessarily want to live out of backpacks and travel like we did, but they did want to know how to make a big change, how to do it with a partner, and how to navigate a brand-new life that went against the grain of what they used to do.
That’s how An Uncluttered Life was born.
Jess Ainlay: What was the mission behind An Uncluttered Life?
Betsy Talbot: So many people want to make sweeping changes in their lives, but they have no idea where to start or how to do it. Rather than living a plan B life, our goal is to make achieving a Plan A life a simple, ongoing process of learning and action. You create the change you want without a lot of stress, confusion, or overwhelm. Most importantly, you actually make progress instead of just thinking about it.
Jess Ainlay: What are some of your most important philosophies that you teach that you also live by?
Betsy Talbot: First, I live by the concept that comparison is the thief of joy. Don’t compare yourself to others or you’ll always be chasing other people’s dreams.
Next, there is no right or wrong, just left or right, A or B. Life is more like a flow chart, and each experience leads you to the next decision point, where you get to choose all over again
When you take away the fear of making the wrong decision, you’ll never feel like you have. And there is great freedom and potential for accomplishment in allowing yourself to make mistakes. Every experience in a life is worthwhile if you learn to mine it for the lessons and opportunities is brings.